Local Knowledge, Since 1902

Barefoot Charters specializes in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a charter destination unlike any other in the Caribbean.
Mooring field
Barefoot Yacht Charters owns a set of 25 moorings in Blue Lagoon that can be made available to enable owners of visiting yachts to leave their boat for a few weeks or months. Philip Barnard

Philip Barnard’s family arrived in St. Vincent and the Grenadines more than a century ago, in 1902. His grandfather sailed the local waters. His father then grew up on local boats, and his mother started Barefoot Charters in 1991—an unusual, if not monumental, achievement for a woman in those days. Barnard followed his family’s lead and, today, owns the company known for its well-developed charter base and sailing school.

“We have relationships that go back generations with service providers,” Barnard says. “I know every inch of water down here, taught to me by my dad and granddad before we had GPS. That allows us to show people an experience that’s a little different.”

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is in the southern part of the Caribbean, which is far less developed than the northern charter meccas such as Antigua and Saint-Martin. The experience in this part of the Caribbean is often described as untouched—much like the other, busier islands were decades ago.

Still, there are modern conveniences. The $259 million Argyle International Airport opened just a few years ago on the eastern side of St. Vincent, giving visitors a first-class travel option for accessing the tranquility of the archipelago. American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Air Canada and other providers offer service here.

Tobago Cays beach
The beach in Tobago Cays Philip Barnard

The islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines run north to south, like an unfastened string of pearls. Conditions are different from other charter hotspots such as the British Virgin Islands, and sometimes include sailing in pure Atlantic Ocean winds.

Barnard describes the locale as ideal for bareboaters who want to step up their sailing game with a bit more of a challenge.

“It’s not like the fishpond sailing in the Virgin Islands,” he says. “Down here, the winds are stronger. This is better-suited for intermediate and advance sailors—and it’s why our sailing school is so good. We can access just about any conditions we want.”

Aerial views of the pristine waters and lush tropical terrain of Tobago. Philip Barnard

Barefoot Charters offers American Sailing Association and Sail Canada classes that start at beginner level and go up to teaching people how to become instructors. The company also has specialty programs focused on living aboard offshore, preparing for offshore passages and learning how to make decisions in high-stress situations, such as major storms. In some cases, instructors include former participants in the Vendée Globe singlehanded, nonstop round-the-world yacht race.

“These extra courses are for people with bigger aspirations, who want to take the family and go all around the world,” Barnard says. “These techniques make you a better sailor in everyday situations too.”

And Barefoot Charters has a well-established base that not only has a restaurant and rooms for bareboat clients, but that also can handle repairs on everything from sails to fiberglass to diesel engines.

Island of Mopion
The Island of Mopion is all beach with one umbrella and a bottle opener hanging from a string just in case. Philip Barnard

“It’s not a dock with three boats and a guy in a little office,” Barnard says. “We don’t have a chandlery in St. Vincent; although it’s a sailing location, there’s no sail industry, so we have to be self-sufficient.”

Teaching boaters to be self-sufficient is also part of the Barefoot Charters operation. The company offers a program that it calls a mentor charter, where clients are on their own chartered bareboat, fully in command and control, but moving through the islands on itineraries that are like a flotilla, so there is always help nearby if needed.

“It’s for confidence-building the first time out,” Barnard explains. “You can say that you sailed a boat for a week. You got your first 50 miles. That’s the prerequisite a lot of the charter companies have.”

Barefoot Yacht Charters fleet
A peek at the Barefoot Yacht Charters fleet. Philip Barnard

That kind of sailing—and all other types of bareboating—can be done aboard the diverse fleet of boats that Barefoot Charters offers. Unlike other companies that focus primarily on, say, only one type of catamaran, Barefoot Charters offers cats as well as monohulls that are built for different purposes.

Barnard says that the fleet breaks down into two general categories: performance boats and boats that offer luxury comfort at anchor. The idea is that different boats are meant to do different things, so bareboaters should be able to enjoy whichever aspect of cruising appeals to them most. Want to go fast on a broad reach? You’ll need a different type of boat than one packed with amenities for use at anchor. At Barefoot Charters, clients can choose either one.

“Our philosophy is to let the fast boats do what they do, and let the other boats be more comfortable,” Barnard says, adding that some clients come back year after year, chartering different styles of boats to learn what they like best. “I have owners here who learned to sail here, and they’re getting ready to go off cruising now that their kids are graduating.”

Barnard also says that Barefoot Charters takes its obligation to the natural environment seriously. Stewardship of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a major part of the company’s philosophy, so much so that each charter guest receives a tree to plant while they’re in the archipelago.

Happy Island
The view from Happy Island. Philip Barnard

“We give a casuarina or flamboyant tree—they’re hardy and can grow here,” Barnard says. “It’s to offset the emissions from the flight down to the islands.”

All in all, Barnard says, the experience that charter guests can have with Barefoot Charters is unlike any other. As just one example, there’s the island of Mustique, which often closes to the public because it’s a favorite haunt of the rich and famous. Here, as with other locations throughout St. Vincent and the Grenadines, clients of Barefoot Charters enjoy special privileges.

“We’ve been able to negotiate access for our clients to Mustique,” Barnard says. “They can go horseback riding, rent a Mule—the golf cart, not the donkeys—and go all around the island. The same is true at Palm Island, which is also exclusive. Our guests can access the hotel grounds and spa with a day pass.

“Because we know so many people around these islands,” he adds, “we have access to a lot of back doors.”

To book a vacation with Barefoot Yachts, visit barefootyachts.com.